What you need to know about CMV

washing handsJune is National Congenital CMV Awareness Month. It is important that all women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant know about CMV.

What is CMV?

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common viral infection that most of us get at some point in our lives, frequently during childhood. It is usually harmless and does not cause any symptoms. But if a woman becomes infected with CMV for the first time, while she is pregnant, she can pass the virus to her baby. This can lead to serious illness, lasting disabilities or even death.

Why is CMV a concern during pregnancy?

CMV is the most common congenital (present at birth) infection in the United States. Fortunately, most babies born with CMV never have symptoms or problems caused by the infection.

However, some babies born with CMV develop one or more conditions during the first few years of life, such as hearing loss, vision loss, learning disabilities, and intellectual disabilities.

A woman who contracts CMV for the first time during pregnancy has about a 1-in-3 chance of passing the virus on to her fetus. She can pass CMV on to her baby at any stage of pregnancy. However, studies suggest that babies are more likely to develop serious complications when their mother is infected in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

How do you get CMV?

You can get CMV by coming into contact with bodily fluid from a person who carries the virus. You may be more likely than other people to get CMV if you have young children at home, work with young children, or work in health care. Most people with CMV have no signs or symptoms, so if you’re a health care or child care worker talk to your doctor about getting tested for CMV before pregnancy to see if you’ve already been exposed to the virus.

How can you prevent CMV?

You can help prevent CMV infection by doing the following:

• Wash your hands well, especially after being in contact with children and body fluids. Wash your hands after changing diapers, wiping noses and picking up toys.

• Carefully throw away used diapers and tissues.

• Don’t kiss young children on the mouth or cheek.

• Don’t share food, glasses, cups, forks or other utensils with young children or with anyone who may have CMV.

Is the March of Dimes conducting research on CMV?

Yes! March of Dimes grantees and other researchers are developing and testing vaccines that may help protect babies against CMV. Recent March of Dimes grantees have been studying how this virus multiplies and spreads in the unborn baby, in order to develop effective drugs that can help prevent disabilities in infected babies.

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